How did you first get involved in art?
A confluence of two recent events: a heart opening following a significant period of meditation (through reading) and a purchase of a piece of street art. After the opening, I realized I had a mission and an opportunity, given my political science education, to use art as a vehicle to promote social change by capturing and presenting truths behind complex, critical socio-political issues of our time. After studying the street art, I realized the medium for presenting those truths should be spraypaint as it is a primary instrument of street artists and the “street” is most often and most severely deprived of social justice.
Your art purchase - the street art - what was the piece and who made it?
The artist was CART 1 and the piece was entitled "I write because nobody listens". I read that quote and thought to myself, "This is why I need to paint." People tend to no longer listen to each others' perspectives on social issues. Civil discourse has largely been subverted by folks who prefer to judge, shout, curse, and force their opinions on others.
You said reading & meditation helped you discover the message you wished to convey. Was there any literature in particular that became a catalyst for your message?
In general, it was a series of books on metaphysics. "Aquinas" by Eleonore Stump has had the greatest influence on me.
Do you have an academic history or any art-training?
I have no art training (formal or informal). I have a Ph.D. in Political Science from The Ohio State University.
How did you learn to create art in the absence of an artistic background? Did the skill required to practice in your medium come naturally? It definitely appears you have a natural knack for composition.
I wouldn't say it came naturally because I don't view it that way. I would say that I co-create along with energies that act through me. If someone appears to have "natural" talent, I believe they've actually just figured out how to tap into larger forces in the universe to which we all have access. That's the metaphysics talking! Creation includes both conscious and subconscious activity; the conscious I control and the subconscious I can access through meditation and express at times, while at other times it expresses at its whim.
Thank you for the compliment on composition. I actually feel it is my strength as an artist and I give a great deal of thought to composition before I cut my first stencil for any artwork. I always know how a painting will turn out (compositionally speaking) before I begin the stenciling and painting processes. All in all, my process takes about 45 days for each painting, which includes time to research the socio-political issue, identify appropriate imagery to support a composition, cut the stencils for that imagery, and then spraypaint the artwork.
Where do you draw inspiration from? Whom do you draw inspiration from?
I am always inspired by truth and motivated by the power of the collective to act once it sees truth. Nearly every day, I come across someone who provides an inspiration through the commission of a selfless act.
What are you currently working on?
I am currently wrapping up painting the fourth artwork in my climate change series, each of which highlights an extreme weather event that is a consequence of unequivocal climate change – drought, rising sea levels, and wildfires. While most of my artworks focus on social issues in our country, many of those same issues are present in other countries. Climate change, in particular, is a global issue and this will be my first artwork whose composition represents an international perspective. “Summer Evening at the National Gallery (Climate Change #4)” is a depiction of the impact that rising sea levels would have in Copenhagen, specifically in the immediate environment of the Statens Museum for Kunst, National Gallery of Denmark.
How do you connect with people through your art? Why do you create art?
I seek to connect by striving to capture a shared social conscience. I create to present truth, encourage an audience to critically view their world, focus on what is habitually overlooked, face what may be uncomfortable truths, and act to improve their lives and those of others.
What are your interests aside from art?
The process of ascension. Living a healthy life. Visiting new places, be they local or distant (looking forward to visiting St. Charles next year!). And, my day job, working on issues of national security.
What is your connection with the Foundry Art Centre? How did you discover it?
I discovered the FAC through an artist call. I’ve learned quite a bit about it since and am grateful for the opportunities it presents to the art community.
Michael is the Going Solo Show award winner from the FAC's current exhibition, Impact. A solo exhibition of his work will be on display in Gallery III in summer of 2017. View more of Michael's work on his website and be sure to see his artwork in the Foundry Art Centre galleries, on display through April 29, 2016.
Article by Jillian Schoettle.